How to choose a Swedish PM – Go, Stop, Go!

Only the Swedes could choose a great Prime Minister only to effectively reject her after a few hours, and then choose her again after a couple of days.

Magdalena Andersson has been an accomplished Minister of Finance in the former government led by Mr. Löfven…

… and if you think Magdalena Andersson’s experience was strange, then nothing should compare to the experience of Mr. Löfven, a Social Democrat (SDP).

After the 2018 election the SDP were voted as the largest party and Mr. Löfven got to form a government with a small majority of a left-leaning block in Parliament. 

The Swedes have long held the practice that there are two blocks in government – the Left and the Right. The understanding has been that coalitions are not good, and that the true difference between the left and the Right is paper thin.

Sweden has developed as a strong and open economy with one of the highest standards of living in the world, something which the other Nordics have also achieved with coalitions where the Left and the Right work together to form governments. So long as the differences are small between these two political groupings things work rather well for the whole population.

However, the Right became much more extreme when the Sweden Democrat Party (SD) started to broadcast xenophobic propaganda about immigrants. They became a big party in Swedish terms with whom no other party wanted to work in government or in opposition. At first the Right abhorred them, then things started changing since the Right likes to be in power. Some inside the Right have declared that they might consider working with the SD, and the SD started to show less extreme credentials. Such attitudes naturally hardened the resolve of the Left.

Soon after the election in 2018, Löfven lost a vote of confidence, but remained head of a caretaker government after the Right could not form a majority government. He then secured a second term with a majority when three parties on the Right and Left abstained from voting!

Time fast forward to 2021, to a Covid-striken world.

Against this background, many on the Left were showing signs of flakiness because the SD was eating into the Left’s numbers of voters! The Right too was increasingly worried by the strength of the SD movement. They too saw voters changing sides. It would be great to have a strong Right majority, but should they compromise themselves and break past promises not to work with the SD?

When push came to shove, things changed this year. Mr. Löfven proposed to allow new apartment buildings to be free of rent controls.

Swedish rent controls are a legacy of history and some of the most abused set of regulations. If you want to rent your apartment in Sweden then you should abide by the rental law that means you do not or cannot set a market rent. The grey market, or better still, the black market for rental apartments is thriving…

The Left Party objected to Mr. Löfven’s proposal and when the SD shelved a vote of “No Confidence” the Right (who were in favour of removing these rent controls) voted with the SD as did the Left Party! A few weeks later Löfven managed to save his government once more and remained Prime Minister. However, he decided to retire at the end of August 2021 and his Finance Minister took over…

The constant bickering and deep distrust between political parties is a new phenomenon in Sweden and in the Nordics. Parties have always competed, but the rise of far-right nationalists who remain vocal in opposition appear to be either the cause or the result of this situation. 

Photos: Wikipedia Commons – M. Andersson by Frankie Fouganthin & S.Löfven by Robvissers1966 

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